A Haunting in Venice
The first two entries in director/actor Kenneth Branagh’s foray into Agatha Christie adaptation lost the magic of the English writer’s mysteries. With his third attempt, A Haunting in Venice, Branagh decides to make considerable changes to the story. Using the bones of Christie’s Hallowe’en Party, writer Michael Green changes the setting from a small town in the English countryside to a palazzo in Venice. Branagh emphasizes the gothic elements of Christie’s story, leaning on the horror of the location, the manic nature of the children’s Halloween party, and the gruesome moments before and after an unexpected death. Continue Reading →
Heart of Stone
In the 2023 sea of action movies, setting yourself apart from others becomes increasingly hard. John Wick: Chapter 4, Mission: Impossible- Dead Reckoning Part 1, Extraction 2, and more have sparked an action cinema revival. It’s a rebirth that I am incredibly grateful for, certainly. Continue Reading →
Kenneth Branagh directs a moving film about a working class Irish family impacted by the Troubles.
Historical films — especially those about devastating and traumatic events — require a precarious balance. If you focus too much on the events themselves, you risk erasing the humanity of the people who experienced them, coming across like a dry textbook. Dive too deeply into the personal — especially if your characters are fictional or fictionalized — and there’s always a chance you’ll make a maudlin melodrama that uses history as little more than a backdrop. This balance becomes exponentially more difficult to maintain when your audience’s main point of access to your story is the eyes of a child, because you’re at constant risk of nostalgia muddying up the proceedings.
Given the subject matter of Belfast and Kenneth Branagh’s deep connection to it (although the film is not a memoir, there are a great deal of similarities between the fictional family and the Belfast-born writer and director’s own), he could have easily faltered with this particular story. It would have been easy to forgive him if he did. Hell, he probably would have made a decent film even if it got too sentimental. This is Kenneth Branagh we’re talking about, after all. But what he’s done instead is craft a film that’s as measured as it is miraculous. Continue Reading →
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “May you live in interesting times,” understand this: we’re living in them right now. It’s a historically awful time of racial unrest, an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, and a global pandemic that’s coldly highlighted how little many of us care about our fellow humans. Optimism is in very limited supply at the moment, and so we cling to the little things that give us joy, and a reason to keep going the next day. Things like Lil Nas X’s Twitter feed, or Ted Lasso, or Lady Gaga branded Oreo cookies. Things like Barb and Star Go to Vista del Mar, which in better times might have made barely a blip on the pop culture radar, but right now feels like a cool drink of water on a very hot day, and is a cult hit in the making. Continue Reading →
Death and Nightingales
On the heels of The Luminaries, Starz brings us another dramatic import, this time the Irish 3-episode miniseries Death and Nightingales, based on Edmund McCabe’s book of the same title and adapted/directed by Allan Cubitt. Set and filmed in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, Death and Nightingales is one of those rare sunny day thrillers, a gorgeously filmed but raw story of a young woman trying to save herself amidst family secrets, Irish Nationalism, and an increasingly untenable homelife. Continue Reading →
Wild Mountain Thyme
An adaptation of his play Outside Mullingar, which was panned by Irish critics, John Patrick Shanley’s Wild Mountain Thyme follows a pair of neighboring farmers as they try to find love despite an ongoing land dispute they get caught up in. When the trailer to this film came out, it was immediately mocked for awful accents and a questionable depiction of Ireland. From watching, it turns out those criticisms were correct. This is a soulless film that does little more than create some pretty shots for the Irish tourist board. Continue Reading →